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Poster: Fact_Checker Date: May 4, 2011 6:21pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: MORE TO COME (Plan 9 From Outer Space copyright)

I have no argument with point #1 and that copyright registration of the screenplay does not mean anything because "large portions of the screenplay were previously published as part of the registered motion picture" (thus making copyright protection contingent upon copyright in the film itself).

However, it may be incorrect to decide that the renewal claimant lacked eligibility because "Valid copyright successors for this film 'James Flocker Enterprises Inc' 'Gold Key Video' 'Vidtronics Inc' and 'Medallion Pictures', all companies who are successors in the chain of ownership post registration, are not present in Williams' quitclaims."

The above companies may well have acquired the remainder of the first-term rights that began with J. Edward Reynolds, but Reynolds's rights may have not extended into the second term. "Plan 9" is in an unusual ownership situation because the project originated with Edward D. Wood Jr. independent of any company or financier, and only later did Reynolds come into the picture, seemingly as a backer rather than as someone to whom Wood had a work-for-hire arrangement. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, this would give Wood ownership of copyright after the first term, and owing to Wood's death prior to the end of the first term, any contractual term he signed forfeiting the second term would be void.

There are precedents supporting this interpretation. Were it the case that D.W. Griffith's part in spearheading "The Birth of a Nation" were such that he would own the second-term copyright, then it would be necessary that he had renewed the 1915 copyright in 1942-43. Instead, the distributor (which had not even been in existence at the time of production) renewed. A court determined that Epoch (the company) could not show it had been eligible to renew, so the renewal copyright was voided.

The "Plan 9" renewal seems to be the reverse: the successor to the "auteur" (as it were) filed renewal, the distributors did not. I don't know whether Wade Williams has valid claims in this regard, nor do I know what contractual and financial arrangements were made between Wood and Reynolds (Could it have been work for hire? Did Reynolds qualify to be copyright claimant for all terms?), but I see there being grounds for interpreting the copyright status of this film in the way that I describe above.

The provisions of the 1909 Copyright Act which gave authors a "second chance" to sell rights when something they created still had a market 28 years after first publication -- which came about because Congress heeded Mark Twain's testimony about how he had earned little from "Innocents Abroad" in its first term -- usually impacted only songs and novels, not movies, but "Plan 9" was not a studio in-house movie. More cases:

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Poster: Video-Cellar Date: May 7, 2011 2:43am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: MORE TO COME (Plan 9 From Outer Space copyright)

The registration listed the authorship as "Reynold Pictures Inc., employer for hire". The work was registered as a work for hire.